By Norberto Ovando *
If microscopic plastic is in the oceans, lakes and rivers, you asked yourself, is it also in drinking water? The answer is Yes.
Microplastics - plastic fragments, microspheres and fibers are tiny, most colorless and imperceptible to the human palate - are not only suffocating the oceans; they have infested the world's drinking water. This is the conclusion of a new study that analyzed 159 samples taken in different countries on five continents.
Microplastics that come from decaying bottles and bags, clothing, and even some cosmetic products, absorb contaminants already present in the water, such as DDT, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Pollution doesn't distinguish between rich and poor nations, noted researchers from the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, who participated in the study commissioned by Orb Media, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, USA.
Of all the samples collected, the83% contained microplastics. Women, men, children, and babies are consuming plastic in every glass of water we drink. If a person drinks two liters of water a day, he ingests eight plastic fibers, the equivalent of more than 2,900 a year.
The country with the highest rate with microplastics was the United States with 94%, where samples were taken at the Capitol and the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC, among others.
Lebanon (93.8%) and India (82.4%) are the next countries on the list. The samples also offer indices for Ecuador, with 79.2%, Indonesia 76.2%, Mexico 75% and Europe (72.2%).
Unlike other studies that focus on the presence of microplastics in the ocean and how they can enter the food chain through the fish or mollusks we consume, (a 225-gram serving of mussels means taking 7 micrograms of plastics) , this reveals the extent of plastic pollution in the global environment.
And if microplastics are present in drinking water, this means that, in all probability, they are found in many of the foods that we consume and that are prepared with water, such as bread, soup, pasta, soda, coffee or formula for babies, say the study authors.
“As this is the first global investigation into plastic contamination in drinking water, the results of this study serve as an initial overview of the consequences of plastic use and disposal, rather than an extensive assessment of contamination. global plastic, ”said Dr. Chemistry Sherri Mason, a pioneer in research on the subject and supervisor of the Orb study.
It is not known with certainty how these polluting fibers got into the tap water, but an obvious source is the atmosphere, which contains fibers that are shed by the use of synthetic clothing and carpets.
They also enter the sewer system from laundry - according to a recent study, each wash cycle in a washing machine can release 700,000 fibers into the environment - and from the fragmentation of larger pieces of plastic, most of which are not they are biodegradable. Nor is it known what implications it may have for human health. Some studies show that small-sized particles can migrate through the intestinal wall and reach the lymph nodes and other body organs.
“We have enough data from studies on the impact they have on wildlife to be concerned,” Mason said, adding, “If it has an impact on animals, how are we going to think it is not going to have an impact on us? ”.
Another piece of information from the study is that the problem is not limited to tap water alone: microplastics were also found in samples of bottled water from the US
About 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year, of which only 20% are recycled or incinerated.
The rest ends up in the air, the land or the sea.
According to a recent study, more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide since the 1950s.
We do not know what the impact on health is and for that reason we should follow the precautionary principle and put all our energy into this now, immediately, so that we can know what the real risks are, said Dr. Anne Marie Mahon of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, in charge of that research.
In our country (Argentina) we need a water and food law without microplastics; to put an end to the manufacture of microspheres and the sale and distribution of products that contain them.
* President / Friends of National Parks Association - AAPN -Expert World Commission on Protected Areas - WCPA - of the IUCN-Latin American Network of Protected Areas - RELAP -
Source: ORB / AAPN